Wednesday, April 27, 2016

painting process

I had to write a short essay for a class I am taking.  The assignment was to describe a process, so I thought I'd write about how I go about working on a painting.  I thought I'd share it here as well.

    I am often asked how long it takes me to finish a painting, and this question is always a challenge for me to answer.  I assume they are asking how long I spent applying the paint to the paper, but there is much more than this one step.  If I answered how long I spent working with just my paints, I would be leaving out some of the longest parts of the process. There are many steps involved, and if any of them are left out, the painting would never be done. 
     For me, the painting starts when I get an idea of what I want to paint.  When I have a good idea, I take my camera, and go in search of reference material.  This can take days or weeks as I look for the right conditions, or the right model, or just something that I think would be interesting.  I try to work out the composition with my camera as I take pictures, looking at the angles, perspectives, lighting conditions, movement, timing and a whole host of other considerations.  Armed with my photos, I then spend time editing them, adjusting the values and colors and creating the image I want to work with. 
     Typically, I spend several days before I get to the next step, which is when I finally get out my art supplies.  With all my materials set up and ready to use, I start by creating a detailed drawing of the composition on paper, and only then do I begin painting.  Time spent actually applying the paint to the paper, from start to finish, can take from several hours to several weeks, but normally I work on something for three or four days before it is done.  And even then, I like to let time pass, so I can look at it with a fresh eye, to see what areas need to be adjusted.  This is usually a week or so later.
     When I am done applying the paint, for me, the painting is still not complete until it is ready to show.  It needs to be in a frame.  Faming the painting only takes about an hour once all the materials are together, but much time is involved in choosing the best frame and mat colors, to showcase the painting the best way possible.  Only in the frame, do I consider the piece finished.
     I have never actually timed how long I spend on specific paintings, and that is why I don’t know how to answer the original question.  Some artists include all the years they spent honing their craft, and learning how to paint when they talk of a finished painting.  What I do know is that painting is a long process with many steps that all need to be done well, before something is finished and ready to be shown.

The part about having the painting in a frame before it is done isn't true.  In reality, it is only done if someone buys it, and it is out of my hands.  Otherwise, I could work on it forever.  

I know its kinda hard to see the painting in the sunlight, behind the glass, but here is the start to finished product.  

This one was 20 x 30" and it found a good home.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Windansea Evening

     I am still trying with oil paints, and I am getting the hang of it, a little.  But I feel like I am limited to only some specific kinds of images.  I want to know exactly how I am going to do the whole painting before I start out with it.  I have done a few paintings that I like really well, but I am in awe when I check out other artists work.  Especially their larger works.  I am so impressed with what other people can do, it is inspiring.  Especially when the finished product looks effortless and even as if it were fun to do.  I see their work and hope that I can someday learn to paint that well, and enjoy it so much.  It always feels like a struggle with the elements for me to finish a painting.  But when it is done, and I like it, I am so happy that I forget how hard it was, and am amazed at how simple and easy the painting sometimes looks.   To me this one looks easy.  Thats how I want them to look when I'm finished.

Windansea Evening
Oil 8 x 16"

Monday, February 8, 2016

New Oil Paintings

In the past few weeks, I have committed myself to doing better oil paintings.  I bought some frames, made some panels, and started painting.  I feel like I am trying to learn something completely new.  I thought that painting was a skill that I was working on, and since liked a lot of my watercolors, I would be able to work in oils just as well.  Now I am thinking that oils and watercolors are so different that I will need to learn something completely new.   I need to figure out what I like in the way of painting surfaces, the paint consistencies, the brushes, the brush strokes, and even the colors that I want to use.  It is all so new and different.  But it feels new and fresh, and I am enjoying the challenge.  This little painting is one I just finished, and I think it shows some promise.  

The Shack - Oil - 5 x 7"

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

More Blacks

Yesterday I went to go for a little surf.  I didn't know how big the waves were, and when I got to Blacks, I saw that they were pretty big.  There was a time when I would have charged out all excited, but now I went out a little nervous.  I made it out fine, and felt ready, but when one of those large canyon sets came, and I was in the spot, I looked down the face of the wave, and pulled back.  I can still see the whole wave - its burned into my memory - and I wish so bad I didn't pull back.  If I had made the drop, it would have been my ride of the year, for sure.  All I know is that now, that image in my mind is a reminder that I chickened out. (Even now, I am pretty sure I would have gotten worked - really hard, but I still wish I went)  I eventually caught some waves, but the majority of the time, I was chasing after my board after my leash came undone, getting caught inside, scrambling over more huge canyon sets, and eventually undoing my leash and ditching my board when the biggest wave of the day broke right in front of me.  I went home humbled.  But, when I got home I finished this painting.  Something about seeing this image makes me feel better.  It tells me that there will be other waves, and maybe I'll ride some of them.  This one is so beautiful I can't stop looking at it.  

"Taking Off"
Watercolor 12 x 16"

Monday, January 11, 2016

What year is is anyways?

I used to put the year after my name when I signed a painting.  I did it for several reasons, but I have stopped doing that for several reasons as well.  One of reasons I stopped is because of paintings like this one.  I thought it was finished with this one 2010, so I signed it, and put a '10 after my name, and filed it away with many other paintings I had.  But, for some reason, last week I got it out again.  And after looking at it with a fresh eye, I saw that with a few new touches, I could make the painting better.  So, after working on it again, and thinking it is really done done this time, is the completition date 2010, or should it be 2016?  After all, most of the painting was done in 2010.  There were only some new accents done last week.  And is the date the painting was completed really important anyways?

Whatever the date is that it was really completed, I like this painting much more than before.  It has cool colors in it, some good texture on the water, and some good movement in the painting.  It is fun to look at, and imagine paddling over this wave.  And it reminds me of a really fun morning at Blacks.

"Silver Almond"
12 x 16"  Watercolor

Monday, December 14, 2015

Back in Rhythm

I feel like I've been on a roll lately.  I have done a few paintings in a row that I like pretty well.  I think it has something to do with some interesting subject matter, or the time I have been putting in, or maybe it is just a re-dedication to painting.  Whatever it is, I like it.  Last week, I had a great day at Blacks just shooting photos.  I got some shots that I am excited to start working with.  So that excitement, with feeling like I just finished some pretty good paintings is nice.  Its fun to feel this way again about art.

This painting came about after I happened to run into my good friend Nathan Petty at Bigrock one day.  As we were talking, he said I could use any of his images to paint.  He has some great images, and I have painted from his shots before, and was pretty happy to work on this painting.  I love the colors, and the shapes, and the focus on the throwing lip.  Its a really fun image.  I think this shot was taken just before another shot he took that I painted and posted about back in March.  Nathan is a really talented photographer.  Please check out his work at

"Throwing Left"
Watercolor 16 x 22"

Friday, November 6, 2015

Looking Back

So, I am still on my same schedule.  About four bad paintings to every one good painting.  I wish I could break this routine.  Last night, after working all day, I looked at what I was doing, and became frustrated.  I started thinking all my work was terrible, and I should try something different with my life.  So, I got out my huge stack of paintings (I have a large stack) and started to go through them again.  This stack dated back about 15 years.  And as I went through, I saw some really terrible work.  Paintings that I had been proud of at one time.  I even had some of these framed at one time, and on display. But, as I went through, I did see some paintings that I still really like, and think are good.  I should go back and see if my four-to-one ratio has always been in effect.  I wish I knew why some paintings work out, and some don't.  I use the same brushes and paints, and paper, and paint in the same place.  What makes the difference?  Is it my mood, or what I am listening to, or my enthusiasm for the subject?  

So, I looked at some of the pictures I really like.  It felt good to see some quality.  Now, I just need to figure out what to do with them all.